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River risen by rain delays repairs to broken sewage pipe

By Melissa Fullerton, Reporter, melissa.fullerton@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 12 2011 02:08:20 PM CDT

The fix didn't last long. The sewer main that ruptured in Reading less than two weeks ago is causing problems once again.

READING, Pa. -

The fix didn't last long. 

The sewer main that ruptured in Reading less than two weeks ago continues to cause problems.

This time, city officials are blaming last week's rain for causing the leak and for delaying repairs.

"We're still in a holding pattern waiting for the river to drop," explained Charlie Jones, director of Reading Public Works.

Crews noticed a leak in the pipe near Brentwood Drive last week amidst the heavy rains, but high water made it too dangerous for crews to unearth the pipe.

Even after the weather broke, the Schuylkill River was too high to make repairs.

"We can't [start repairs] until the river drops to a lower level," Jones said Monday.  "If we try to do that, and we did try as late as this morning, it starts to back up into the pump station and floods us out."

The same pipe ruptured two weeks ago and forced more than 16 million gallons of sewage into the Schuylkill before repairs were complete.

In 2008, the same pipe broke, leaking 20 million gallons of waste water into the river.

This time, the leak has stopped on its own, keeping sewage out of the water for now. Some waste water did leak onto the west bank of the river.

 "We were able to install a couple bypass pipes, and then we're pumping that flow on the surface into our treatment plant to keep it out of the river," said Jones.

According to Jones, part of the problem is the continued release of water from Blue Marsh Lake making its way to the Schuylkill.

"Blue Marsh is discharging at their maximum rate to settle all the flooding issues that they have," Jones explained.  "So until they stop, chances are we we're not going to be able to do too much."

Jones estimates repairs won't be a possibility until at least Wednesday.

Once work on the pipe starts, public works will have to shut down the pumping station at 6th and Canal streets and divert sewage into the river once again.

The city is claiming storm damage for this latest leak, so it is applying for federal emergency funding to cover the cost of repairs, which have yet to be determined.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection told 69 News a decision on enforcement action has yet to be made regarding both recent sewer leaks in Reading.

The Schuylkill River is a source of drinking water for Pottstown and Philadelphia.

During the last break, workers monitored the water around the clock for signs of any contamination.